A Tibetan lama tells his life story, from childhood with nomadic parents to his entrance into a monastic community, participation in Buddhist retreats, recognition as a reincarnated lama, meeting with the present Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet, and study and training in the Dzogchen tradition of Buddhism for service as a teacher to the world–based for the last ten years in California.
Sogan Rinpoche’s account of his life evokes the beauty of the Tibetan land and people and their unique Dharma culture. It also bears witness to the destruction and oppression of Tibetan culture by the communist colonialism of the government of the People’s Republic of China, while inspiring us with the survival in extremity of Buddhist ethics and education. He describes his beloved Golok homeland in the northeast Tibetan region of Amdo, now carved up into Chinese provinces.
He vividly evokes the wisdom and kindness of his parents and grandmother, and of his extraordinary teachers who survived harsh treatment in the Chinese gulags. His unflinching description of the harsh cruelty of the Chinese invaders of Tibet forces us to confront the reality of senseless, amoral actions of people driven by delusive convictions and emotions, while his ability to still appreciate the humanness of Tibet’s enemies reflects the generous and tolerant Tibetan spirit. Finally, his detailed and sensitive sharing of his remarkable process of inner development allows us to witness how human beings can stretch themselves to encompass truly challenging teachings and practices and emerge with open eyes and open heart, while maintaining humility and positive intentions.
His memoir is aptly titled Dreams and Truths, as the dreamlike quality of his many trials and sorrows as well as moments of joy is apparent from his most youthful encounters with death and suffering. He thus exemplifies for us the Buddhist vision of how realistically to remain in this world as a compassionate positive participant without being of this world as caught up in the desperate and futile struggle to live selfishly and unrealistically focused on one’s own little agenda rather than on the vast need of all one’s fellow beings.
The “truths” that he shares are the deep, experiential Buddha teachings, especially the exquisite, expansive wisdom view and compassionate practice and ethic of the Nyingma Dzogchen tradition, in its rigorously nonsectarian form. His adventures show us how one can meet even mundane challenges all the more effectively by actually renouncing selfish concerns.
Without showing off, he honestly and poetically shows us how we can take advantage of darkest adversity and turn it into golden opportunity. In his life and work he honors his noble teachers, including his kindest patron, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet.